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332                             THE GAY GENIUS

wearing a yellow vest and a hat with pieces of green jade on it. The
Emperor was surrounded by a great number of palace maids, all
gorgeously dressed. Kuo had an idea that there were a great many of
diem, but he dared not look up. Although it was June, the room was
freezing cold. Large chunks of ice were piled up in the room and per-
fume from the incense filled the air. He realised that he was some-
where in one of the great palaces. After the proper greetings, the
Emperor said to him: "I hear that you are the son of Su Shih, and
are good at painting rocks. Here is a new hall and I want you to paint
the walls. That is why I have sent for you," Kuo drew a deep breath.
Emperor Huitsung was himself a great painter and even today many
of his paintings are preserved. Kuo bowed twice and then started to
paint the walls, while the Emperor left his seat and stood around to
look at him while he was at work. When the painting was finished,
the Emperor repeatedly expressed his admiration, and told a palace
maid to hand Kuo a cup of wine, and gave him many valuable gifts.
After he had withdrawn from the imperial presence, Kuo again took
the sedan chair in the corridor and was again screened in on his way
home. After arriving home, he felt as if he had lived through a dream.

The difficulty of obtaining ink in that island place led Su Tungpo
to an experiment. Kuo later told the story of how his father nearly
set their house on fire. This tale concerned a famous maker of ink
in Hangchow whose products sold for two or three times the price
of other makes because he said he had learned the secret formula from
Su Tungpo himself at Hainan. Some of the scholars asked Kuo about
his father's formula for making ink. Kuo laughed and said: "My
father didn't have any secret formula. He just played with it when
we had nothing to do in Hainan. One day, Pan Heng [the famous
ink maker] arrived and my father started to make ink with him in
a small room, by burning resin to form soot. At midnight the room
caught fire and the house just escaped being burned down. Next day
we collected several ounces of soot from the charred ruins. But we
had no glue and my father took ox-hide glue and mixed it anyhow
with the soot. It would not solidify properly and we obtained only
several dozens of pieces the size of a finger. My father had a great
laugh. Soon Heng departed." The people of those times did find that
the ink made by this merchant was of a very fine quality. Evidently
he had learned his secret from some other person than Su Tungpo, but
sold his product on Su's reputation.

Now that his time was idle, Su contracted the habit of going about
the countryside picking medicinal herbs and identifying the different
varieties. He identified with great satisfaction a certain herb which
was referred to in the ancient histories by another name, and which
nobody else had been able to find. Among the various notes on